Baby It’s Cold Inside

When I was a child, there were days when I would have to stay inside, holed up in the house with all the windows and double doors closed against the cold. On particularly nasty days, the temperature would fall to incredible lows of minus 40 degrees Celsius. The wind chill could make it even colder and warnings were issued that skin exposed to such temperatures would be frost bitten in mere minutes. Outside the wind howled its warning against entering its grip.

At times like this, when the door was opened by someone going out or coming in, the chorus rang throughout the house, “Close the door!!” and we all hunched our shoulders and tucked our feet in against the draft.

At night lying in my bed waiting for sleep to come, my eyes would follow the patterns on the frost-covered windows, lit up by the street lights below.The patterns were artful, sweeping, wing-shaped and glistening like crystal and diamonds. Sometimes I’d get up and touch them or lick the window and feel the icy chill on my tongue. My fingers melted the frost in patterns or words. Scraping with fingernails and a snowstorm was created, a miniature of the one raging outside.

Today again I am holed up in the house with all the windows and doors closed. And, were someone to open a door, I would definitely be hollering at them to “Close the door!” against the weather.

There is a difference between this day the days of my childhood I just described…today I am inside hiding from the insufferable heat, generator running, air conditioning on full blast.

The thermometer in my office read 95 deg F (35 deg C) with 78% humidity. At 1:30pm I decided it was time I get a couple of potted palms into the holes that were prepared for them several days ago, on the west side of the house. After an hour of careful work, taking breaks and drinking cold water, I’d just about had enough. The job was finished – the plants were in their holes and watered, a mess remained to be cleaned up – but I knew I needed to get out of the heat. In the bathroom getting ready to take a shower to cool off, I got a clear illustration of what “beet red” really means. My face was literally the color of beets. “Not good” I thought. Better hurry up and get in the shower. While in the shower, the need to throw up became very overpowering.

After this turn of events, it occurred to me that it would be a good day to run the air conditioning. But sadly, the generator, which in this solar home is required if you want to use the AC, has not been working. The neighbor, a knowledgeable mechanic, was supposed to come early in the day to look at it, but didn’t show up. Basta!

So instead, I lay down under the fan and tried to get my core temperature down. Another shower and then I rested fitfully under the fan.

Finally, the mechanic Victor arrived, and after less than 5 minutes had figured out the problem. In 10 minutes flat he had it repaired. The propane gas line was clogged. As he left he said “you need to run the generator for a while to clear the lines.” Well you don’t have to tell me twice.

And so I moved quickly, closing all the doors and windows, taking the covers off the air condensers and then turning on the AC units in the two downstairs bedrooms.

Here I sit writing away in 84 deg F (29 deg C) temperatures and 50% humidity. I’m wearing very little and the fan is blowing cool air at me. Heaven!

Oh wait, I think I might be getting a chill…

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Well Well

It’s not just about what you say, it’s how you say it. I’m always on the look out for ways to make life more positive. Here’s one…

Be well and watch this link of Amanda Gore’s wellness seminar to learn about living positively! (She is no relation to Mr. Global Warming if that’s what you’re thinking).

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Money Talks, Vick Plays

Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is a free man. He was released on Monday after serving 20 months of a 23 month sentence for engaging in illegal dog fighting and for related acts of animal cruelty. He served 18 months in a prison facility. The last two months were fulfilled through home arrest during which he was allowed to leave the house to work.

To get up to speed and see some of his victims, please CLICK HERE. Go HERE to see the real face of dog fighting (WARNING graphic content).

Michael Vick didn’t just fight dogs, he electrocuted, shot, beat, drown and made dogs endure the pain and stress of fighting. He put family pets in the ring with vicious pit bulls and laughed at the spectacle as they were torn to shreds. And the only plausible reason he could have done it is because he is an aggressive, angry, stupid and psychotic man. And still, despite the evidence that the man needs psychiatric care, not more time on the field, people are screaming to have him reinstated to the sport of football.

At no point in the course of his being arrested, cutting a plea bargain and serving his sentence has Michael Vick expressed true remorse for what he did. He has apologized to lots of people, especially his team and notably NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. But he has never publicly apologized to or made mention of the countless animals he tortured. Instead of expressing embarrassment or shame, he has accused the media and judicial system of unfair treatment and racism.

He hasn’t talked about the impact of his actions on other people either, especially his fans and young black men in America. He is a role model. Before he was caught, who do you think a young black man would rather have been? Michael Vick or Barack Obama?

The question in the press, ever since he was suspended from the league, has been whether Vick will be allowed back in the NFL. A question that weighed heavily on the shoulders of commissioner Goodell. Goodell has been reported as saying that Vick must show true remorse in order to be granted that priviledge. It’s been over two years and we haven’t heard a peep from Vick in that respect. Isn’t it a little late for that?

The reality is that Goodell has been telling Vick exactly what he wants to hear in order to let him back in. All Vick had to do is read the papers and figure out what the right answers were.

Vick might be stupid, but his handlers aren’t and you can bet they are doing everything it takes to get their man back on the field, back in the money. An example – Vick reportedly started working with the Humane Society of the United States recently in a program designed to reach “at risk” American youth in their campaign against dog fighting. But this comes after PETA walked away from negotiations with Vick because they did not believe he was sorry for what he’d done. They agreed he needed his brain scanned and therapy.

Of course Vick is going to do whatever it takes to get back on the field. He is jumping through their hoops.

And today Goodell did what any good politician would – he ruled that Vick can be reinstated to the NFL and join in training for this fall’s season, if he gets picked up by a team. Goodell’s abdicated his responsibility and completely passed the buck. ARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!


In reality, Goodell has handed his responsibility to the public. The only way that Vick will be prevented from rejoining the ranks of the NFL, sending a terrible message to the American public and his supporters, will be if he is prevented from playing professional football for the rest of his life.

On the contrary, the American public needs to send a message to Vick and to the world, that 18 months of prison time does not cut it.

I say, Boycott the NFL.

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Contact the NFL directly and tell them what you think.

Sign a petition that will be sent to all NFL sponsors.

Sign as many of the following petitions as you can.

Making it Last

Living in great isolation due to the condition of the road between here and town means that groceries must be bought with the goal of reducing the number of trips to town as much as possible. As the regular reader may recall, the road is a bone-jarring, washboard-riddled series of curves – very hard on the body and the car. Town at this time of year is searing hot giving the impression that you’ve entered hell.

When I first moved here from the cool temperate regions, I did not have AC in my truck. As a result the trip to town in summer would be a serious challenge of maintaining consciousness in the face of 110 degree temperatures. Thankfully, these days the Nissan Xterra has air and the trip can be made comfortably, reducing stress greatly.

I returned to Mexico last Sunday, the 12th of July, bought supplies and returned here to Las Vinoramas where our home sits on a knoll overlooking the beach and the Sea of Cortez. Because it was Sunday, my usual fruit and vegetable stand was not open. Basta! Instead I had to go to the large commercial megachain store called, naturally, Mega. The produce at these stores is not of as good quality as the small La Lizaraga vegetables stands and comes from much farther away. You can taste the difference. So the thought was that I would purchase only what was necessary for a week or eight days and then return to truly stock up on food this week.

Well, one thing led to another and I have still not returned to town 12 days later. First off, there were three invitations to eat dinner elsewhere. That made the vegetables last longer. Secondly, the heat has reduced the appetite considerably (a good thing because there are several pounds hanging around that are not welcome). Thirdly, I’ve decided to try to eat from the collection of food stored in the freezer and in the pantry. There are things in there that are old enough to start kindergarten this fall.

The apples are all gone, but there are still some pieces of fresh fruit as well as frozen fruit for making smoothies. The remaining broccoli and lettuce are still good thanks to Debbie Meyer’s Green Bags that extend the life of produce greatly. There is cauliflower, carrots, beets, cabbage, one yam, something that looks like a turnip, some rather large radishes, two Spanish onions, three pears and one plum in the fridge. In the freezer are mangoes, bananas, papaya, two kinds of pesto, marinara sauce from Uncle Cesare, frozen vegetables, cheese, leftover borscht and a strange vegetarian soy bean casserole I made at least two years ago that was not very good. In the pantry are untold riches…lots of pasta, rice, beans and many sauces.

So just how long can I last before making the trip to town to resupply?

Calling All Struggling Writers!

If I sit down at my computer first thing in the morning then before I know it, it’s 2:30pm and I haven’t had breakfast yet.

“So what?” you are probably saying, “ We all have a little trouble balancing life at times.”

Well, aside from the fact that it points to a little condition known as OCD (that’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder for those of you not up on your psychiatry), it is concerning because the result is that all the other aspects of life don’t get taken care of. Like the dishes (although there are remarkably fewer when you don’t eat), the gardening, the care and feeding of the animals, personal hygiene.

Lately, though, I’ve been surfing the web instead of waves, amazed to find so much information related to writing. The OCD is paying off in dividends. In the course of this frenzy of focus on the craft of writing, I’ve signed up for a writer’s conference, bought screenwriting software and made contact with a major screenplay development editor and am considering attending her workshop this October. (Ya, this is getting expensive.) I’ve found answers to questions I didn’t even know to ask. Like:

How do I get from an idea to a finished screenplay?
Who do I get to read my screenplay and when?
How and when do I find an agent?
How do I get a producer to read my work?

and, related to the opening of this blog entry,
Do I have to abandon all my friends, family and personal hygiene to be a successful writer?

It’s funny and a little mysterious how out of the blue all these resources have popped onto the screen, whereas for the past three years, I’ve been out in la-la land, clueless about the “hows” of getting my writing career tangibly underway. I took a screenplay writing course all those years ago and it taught me a fair amount about the nuts and bolts of what a screenplay should look like. But what it didn’t teach me is that there is this whole big world of help out there for the struggling writer – resources to help you get it done and get it done well. The screenwriting software is just el gipful auf dem eisburg (tip of the iceburg…I really like the way that sounds in German).

Among all of these discoveries, I think the thing that blew me away the most was that many writers do not work in a vacuum, holed up in their offices, cigarette dangling from their mouths, sweat dripping from their brow. There is this thing, or person, called the Developmental Editor that can lighten the writer’s burden. And the degree to which they carry the weight is really vast and varied.

The most extreme example I learned of is a shocker. According to former Rolling Stone editor Alan Rinzler, as a deadline loomed over the head of Hunter S. Thompson, his editor would have to go to his home and literally drag the story out of him. Hunter would be totally disorganized, manic and panicking because he didn’t have the story done. There’d be little pieces of paper and cigarette packets all over the place with notes scribbled on them, but nothing coalesced. The editor would sit down and ask him the who, what, when, where ,why & how, record the answers, which would be transcribed, allowing the editor to massage it into a story. The impact this had on Thompson’s success is up to you, the reader, to consider.

Bottom line? Even the most successful of writers have not attained their success effortlessly or solo. Ya, sure, there are some rare people who sit down and write a story from front to cover and get it right the first time without any help from their editor, but let’s face it, they are the exception, not the rule.

In this, the Information Age, no one should have to struggle the way I have to discover that we are not alone. It’s hard enough to write. So I’m sharing a bunch of these really great links so you don’t have to struggle quite so hard.

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There’s lots more, so get out there and get inspired. I did.

Polar Bear Smiles

A fellow blogger and pioneering photographer was sent an email recently about a facility in Canada where polar bears are kept and people allowed to swim with them. It was known that the photos in the email would intrigue and probably outrage the pioneering photographer and fellow animal lover. Sure enough, it piqued his interest and resulted in his most recent blog posting.

In his blog, the fellow expressed that it was inhumane what these Canadians are doing with four polar bears. And, on the face of it, this appeared to be true. Making polar bears live in captivity and eat dead fish, instead of roaming free to live the natural life of a polar bear, hunting on the ice for their favorite meal of seal, wandering on the tundra in summer, looking for small mammals, insects, roots and berries.

Instead of the natural order of things, in this place they have a large pool in which the bears may swim and people are permitted to swim with them, so to speak, safely behind a thick plate of glass. A very unnatural and, it was suggested the blogger, frustrating situation for the bears.

The photos included in the email are surreal and elicit certain emotions in the viewer – amazement, disbelief, concern, and finally sadness at the plight of these captive polar bears subjected to such strange circumstances.

But the careful reader does not take things at face value and assume that the Permanent Pilgrim and Pioneering Photographer’s point of view is correct … despite his apparent intelligence, worldliness and charm. The careful reader who sincerely cares about the well-being of the polar bears checks the facts by looking for information about the facility where they are swimming dreaming of children and their tasty flesh.

The Polar Bear Conservation and Education Habitat web site explains that these polar bears were in fact rescued from zoos and other places where they were mistreated and are now undergoing rehabilitation for the mistreatment they received. And the property on which they live is five acres, they are fed whole moose as well as fish and live outside in the snow all winter, digging caves in large snowbanks to wait out snowstorms like they would in the wild.

The web site tells the story of Nanook, a 24 year-old male polar bear who was captured after his mother was murdered by a mining company worker in the High Arctic. At only one year of age he surely would have died not yet having learned from his mother how to hunt.

For 23 years this poor bear suffered at the hands of humans. Mishandled he learned to fear men. Misfed his teeth rotted and wore down to stumps. He had a very unhappy life.

And then he was rescued by the Polar Bear Conservation and Education Habitat and came to live there in an environment where he would be comfortable, well fed and permitted to interact with a couple of girl polar bears named Nakita and Aurora.

Held in a small cage for many years, now Nanook is free to wander the large property, given clean straw on which he naps and a large pool in which to swim. He has changed as a result, becoming calmer and expressing his needs through body language. And most importantly, he has learned how to smile.

Many facilities that contain large animals like the polar bear do so purely for profit, but the Polar Bear Conservation and Education Habitat is a not-for-profit rescue and education center created to help the animals that are exploited elsewhere. It is too late for bears like Nanook to return to the wild, but at least at facilitates like this one, they may live out their days in comfort, serving their brethren through education and exposure of the mistreatment they once endured. There are other animals that are not so lucky.

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To learn more about the great white bear go here.
To make difference, donate to the excellent Polar Bears International conservation group.

Retreat

It was considered two days ago to write about a political subject – about the Universal Health Care Bill that the Obama administration is presenting to the Senate. The title of that post would have been

2009=1984

from which is becomes clear the opinion this article would have expressed.

The decision has been made not to write about that topic however. For several reasons.

First off, it would be necessary to do a lot of research to write such a blog with great accuracy. Accuracy is imperative when expressing a political view. And frankly, this blog can not eat up the necessary time, as there are other writing projects that call for the attention. Furthermore, the topic is highly contentious, making the readers upset regardless of their opinion. If they are for the proposed bill, then the blog would have made them angry at the author for the contrary opinion. If they are against the bill, then the very mention of the subject would raise their ire. Only a small fraction of the population would have a neutral opinion and read such a blog with an open and inquiring mind.

So it was decided not to write a blog that would just upset the majority of readers.

Instead a recent happenstance crossing of two paths that occurred and the results of this chance encounter will be related to the reader.

On Sunday, Alaska Airlines Flight 224 was taken from San Francisco to San Jose del Cabo. Check-in was a harried experience when it was realized that the flight registry had closed one minute earlier due to the line moving at a slug’s pace. It was reported that departure would have to take place the following day. Ack! Quick thinking and it was pointed out to the airline rep that there were several other people behind in the line that were also scheduled to take the flight, so there was clearly a problem with the check in process. The large man who’s opinion was sought by the nice check in lady took this into consideration for a moment and then allowed her to override the restriction. Phew!

And so the security line, which was much longer than the check in line, was approached with some trepidation. Fortunately, it moved much quicker than the check in line.

Approaching the actual security check, it was noticed that the lady in front had a lap top computer and had not taken it out of its bag. In the interest of efficiency and making the own flight, it was politely shared with this lady that the lap top had to be removed from its case. A sincere expression of gratitude followed and then a conversation ensued. Where one was going, what to do?

“A writer’s retreat” was the reply, to which great surprise and admiration was expressed. It was determined that the retreat was not expensive because work was exchanged for mentoring. And the idea that a writer’s retreat might be within the grasp was born.

So back in front of the computer a search was enthusiastically made for “writer’s retreat.”

Enthusiasm quashed.

“These retreats are all so expensive!” came the thought. One must either already be an established writer and be accepted to an exclusive program or one must be well-heeled. Thousands of dollars were requested to attend a retreat run by an academic institution or unknown author. The accommodations are lovely, but the real substance and purpose of the retreat seems undermined and secondary.

Then a thought came. Perhaps in the home and native land of Canada there will be a retreat that is affordable. And can be combined with a trip to visit the family, thereby saving on airfare (killing the proverbial two birds, as it were). And sure enough, a lovely retreat in Quebec was found located only 2.5 hours from the family home. With mentors that are well-known and respected authors. Cheap, no, but at least the money will be well spent.

I wonder if the same can be said of Obama’s Universal Health Care?